Keeping the Peace with Angry Patients

Angry patients can certainly present a difficult challenge to your dental team. Why a patient may become upset is not something that can be simplified — as human beings, we all become upset for many reasons. It may just as easily have something to do with their own personal life, rather than actually being about their experience at your clinic. Or, maybe the patient is upset about the financial aspect of dentistry, which can be worrisome for many. Maybe they are worried about the treatment and are actually experiencing dental anxiety, but expressing it via hostility. There are several reasons why a patient may become upset, and in the end, none of them matter. The protocol for handling angry patients is always going to come down to the same key things. We’ll list those key tips for you here. 


Before anything, however, it is important to keep in mind that, when a patient gets angry, it is never about you. It can be hard to not take things personally, especially when the person is upset and is using emotionally charged behavior and language. It’s tempting to take it as a personal offense or think that they are upset with us individually, when confronted with an angry patient. However, the most important thing that you can do in order to ensure success when handling these situations is to remember that it isn’t personal. It isn’t about you as a person. 


The patient has their own complex life, and their emotions are a direct result of whatever factors are upsetting them there. They may be upset with the experience, with a policy at your practice, or maybe they’re upset about the cost, but they aren’t upset about you as a person. Keeping this in mind will make it easier to navigate these situations, while keeping yourself from feeling threatened or insulted by their behavior. 



Using the right phrases and word choice will have a significant impact on how successful you are in dealing with angry patients. Using the wrong words or phrases will only trigger more anger. By being careful to listen, and to use the words and phrases that will not inflame their emotions further, you will find it much easier to calm them down and achieve ultimate success. 


Just remember — it is overwhelmingly important that you make sure to follow through with anything you promise to an upset patient. Not quickly following through with a promise that you make to an angry patient will prove to be detrimental to your practice’s relationship with that patient, and may result in even more frustration and potentially a bad review. Never promise anything that you cannot follow through with, and always prioritize the resolution that you guarantee as your number one priority. Get it done quickly, and communicate to the patient once you have done what was discussed. This will leave a good taste in their mouth about your practice, even though they got upset.